This letter was penned by Southwestern Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Scott Frey regarding the issues faced by Grand Lake St. Marys-area businesses:

The Chamber Voice As we prepare for another hot and humid summer, I think we need to take a moment and think about our progress at Grand Lake St. Marys. As the Executive Director of the Southwestern Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce, a businessman, and a concerned citizen in the Grand Lake St. Marys region, I’ve seen firsthand the impact of the water quality issues on local business and it has not been pretty. I’ve had occasion to meet with and listen to government officials, Lake Restoration Commission officials, local business owners, agricultural producers, and agri-business concerns. After each of those meetings and conversations, I’ve come away with a very positive outlook on what’s being done to improve the water quality in Grand Lake St. Marys.

But let’s look at reality here… This summer, we’re bound to have another algae bloom with all of the rainfall, runoff, and nutrients still present in the watershed and in the lake. I think we’d be fooling ourselves if we expect there to be a summer with no advisories or warnings due to algae. The issues with the lake have taken years to develop and they will take time to resolve. We have to accept that. So, let’s all take a deep breath here and continue our laser focus on the solution, as a community. Last summer, I encouraged businesses and consumers in the Golden Triangle to think about the lake-related businesses when they consider their discretionary spending. I’m encouraging folks around here to do so again this summer as we enter the outdoor activity season. We can each have a positive impact on our local economy in this way.

The Lake Restoration folks have been working diligently with a much more receptive state government, and a detailed, multi-faceted strategic plan has been developed and is currently being implemented. Excellent efforts are being made by local farmers and agri-businesses to help mitigate and control the amount of nutrients in the watershed. Folks who were formerly at odds are finding themselves working together to develop these solutions. Consumers and businesses in and around the watershed have begun to develop a more environmentally friendly lifestyle with their choices in yard and garden treatment products. It is vital that we continue these positive efforts if we hope to eventually improve the water quality in Grand Lake St. Marys. We cannot allow finger-pointing and bickering to creep back into the culture surrounding the lake restoration efforts.

My hope is that with the first stage of alum treatments, the treatment train implementation on the feeder streams, the increased aeration projects, rough fish removal, increased dredging, and all of the continued research, we’ll at least have a less severe algae bloom this summer. From what I have observed with the State of Ohio, it appears that they will take a more reasonable and commonsense approach to the advisories and warnings once an algae bloom develops. There is much to celebrate already, and the work has only just begun! The research and strategic plan being implemented at Grand Lake St. Marys is well ahead of most other locations fighting the same algae issues. There will be new businesses developed and long-term positive economic development realized as a result of the water quality issues in the lake (the proverbial “silver lining”).

So, let’s try to remember that we all benefit from a successful restoration effort, and we all have much to lose if we “go negative” at the first sign of another algae bloom. There is far too much at stake for us to lose our focus and momentum at this point. This summer will prove to be a critical period of time in the lake restoration effort: not because we experience another algae bloom, but because of how we handle it when it happens.